Do Vegans Eat Maple Syrup? [And How To Choose A Vegan Version]

While pancakes are vegan, many people wonder about the sugary concoction that often accompanies it. Commercial syrups can contain animal fat or butter, so they aren’t considered vegan.

You’ve got to be careful of what you consume, and many sugary treats aren’t vegan. I wondered a while back if maple syrup was okay to put on my pancakes. The answer is a little surprising.

Yes, vegans eat maple syrup since it is usually a vegan product. Natural maple syrup is vegan, but not all maple syrup products are since some add butter or dairy.

Today, I want to discuss how maple syrup could be non-vegan and how to select a vegan-friendly option.

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four bottles of vegan pure maple syrup in different grades

How Is Maple Syrup Made?

To get to the real truth about maple syrup and veganism, you need to know how it’s produced and how it’s made. Maple syrup comes from a maple tree’s sap. The process to make it is similar to table sugar, but there are some differences.

I need to clarify that some people call it pancake syrup because it’s put on the popular breakfast food. These two products are not the same.

Pancake syrup can contain the same flavor, but it is made using high-fructose corn syrup. In a sense, it is fake maple syrup.

You can find different maple tree species, though many manufacturers use the sugar, red, or black maple varieties. Canada has plenty of these trees, which is why it’s the country’s and flag’s symbol.

This means that Canada produces most of the maple syrup in the US. 

The process to produce maple syrup is lengthy because the maple tree goes through many changes during the year and throughout the seasons. Summer allows the trees to store sugar and turn it into starch for the winter and autumn months.

Producers must wait until spring so that the tree converts the starch back into sugar. Summer’s sugaring season lasts just four to six weeks. Producers have to work quickly to get as much maple syrup as they can.

There are multiple processes to get maple syrup. The steps for making maple syrup are as follows:

  1. Tapping trees – Producers drill holes in the trees before winter ends so that the sap can be collected at its sweetest in spring. Freezing and thawing can happen to help with pressurization. The sap accumulates and goes into a storage tank. Vacuum pumps or manual work can be used.
  2. Reverse osmosis – When the sap is in the storage tank, reverse osmosis is used to reduce the water content. Raw sap is roughly two percent sugar and very clear. A lot of sap has to be removed from the trees to make the syrup, up to 40 gallons of sap for a gallon of the syrup. 
  3. Evaporation – Through evaporation, more water is removed to leave the syrup sweet and thick. It happens through boiling to caramelize the sap, which can leave foam or bubbles.
  4. Filtration – This is needed to refine the syrup and improve the color, taste, and clarity. Through filtration, sugar sands are eliminated, which are the solid bits that form after boiling.
  5. Density adjustment – There has to be at least a 66 percent sugar density for the maple syrup to be sold commercially. A hydrometer is used to measure this, but there should be two tests for accuracy. Another filtration process might be required to get the right density.
  6. Grading – The USDA uses a grading system based on taste, color, and quality. That way, consumers can determine how good the maple syrup is.

What Makes Maple Syrup Non-vegan?

Traditional maple syrups only use the sap without any other ingredients. Commercial production requires different things to be added to improve shelf-life, such as:

  • Artificial or natural flavors
  • Caramel coloring
  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Potassium sorbate
  • Sodium benzoate

Most of these things aren’t a problem, but the manufacturer may leave out details about the natural and artificial flavors used. A sneaky ingredient can sometimes be found in many commercial brands.

Lard might be used during the filtration process to remove the foam or bubbles after it’s boiled. Vegetable fats do the same thing, and many manufacturers have switched to it for various reasons. 

PETA claims that no one is vegan if they purchase Canadian-based maple syrup because the country kills a lot of seals through its annual seal hunt. I agree that this shouldn’t continue, but I’m not sure there should be a correlation between the two.

No seal byproducts are used to make or package the maple syrup, so the two things aren’t related. Personally, I think it’s unfair to put all that on a single product and don’t have a problem buying maple syrup made in Canada.

How To Choose A Vegan Maple Syrup

There are only three ways that a maple syrup isn’t vegan, which include:

  • It’s manufactured in a facility that produces dairy, honey, or other non-vegan foods.
  • Lard or other animal fats are used to de-foam the syrup.
  • It contains ingredients or flavors with animal or dairy products.

How do you know what maple syrup brands are vegan? Naturally, the sweet concoction is vegan, but the manufacturing processes can ruin it. Consider checking the label to see:

  • Organic
  • Vegan-friendly
  • 100 percent pure maple used (this shouldn’t be confused with 100 percent maple)

Always be an investigator. If you read the label and continue to wonder, visit the manufacturer’s website or contact them to be sure.

Those who worry about commercial products can make their own maple syrup, as well. You can control the ingredients used and ensure that you’re not doing anything to violate the vegan creed.

Conclusion

Maple syrup is, in fact, naturally vegan. The manufacturing process could be called into question and turn a vegan-friendly product non-vegan.

Many times, maple syrups are highly processed to help them last longer, look better, and improve taste. It’s always best to choose vegan-friendly brands and research the ingredients.

That way, you are using a brand that’s transparent enough to care about its consumers.

You can enjoy a warm batch of pancakes for breakfast or dinner and use real maple syrup on them. Vegans don’t have to put aside their griddles and spatulas, but it does take some effort on your part to ensure that the maple syrup you buy is vegan-friendly.

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Stephanie Mantilla

Plant-Based Diet & Vegan Lifestyle Expert

Stephanie is the founder of Plant Prosperous, a plant-based vegan living, and parenting blog. She has been eating a plant-based diet for over 24 years along with a B.S. in Biology & Environmental Science. She also has over 14 years of experience working in the environmental and conservation sectors. Stephanie is currently raising her son on a plant-based diet and hopes to help others who are wanting to do the same. You can read more about her here.

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